While the Seahawks defense provided many of the big highlights in a Week 4 win over the Giants, one of the most impressive performances took place on the other side of the ball, with the offensive line once again getting the job done despite several injuries.
Offensive line coach Andy Dickerson has managed to bring the best out of both his starters and rotational linemen this season, and in Monday night's win, Dickerson's offensive line continued its strong play despite constant changes due to injury.
"One of the first things that comes to my attention is the guys that continue to step up and play for other guys," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the start of his postgame press conference. "We had a mix-match thing going on the offensive line again, but it's been three weeks of it. I'm so proud that we have guys that can answer the call and play at the top level and give us a chance to compete in these games."
For the third straight week, the Seahawks were without starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, who were both injured in the season-opener, but Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan have filled in admirably during their absence. During the first half of Monday night's game, right guard Phil Haynes left with a calf injury, with rookie Anthony Bradford taking over, then not long after that, left guard Damien Lewis went down with an ankle injury. With options limited, the Seahawks moved regular center Evan Brown to left guard, and brought rookie Olu Oluwatimi in to play center. So for more than a half of Monday night's game, the Seahawks had only one Week 1 starter on their offensive line, and he was playing out of position.
In 2022, Seattle opted to start two rookie tackles, Cross and Lucas, to begin the season. It would serve as Dickerson's first season as offensive line coach with the franchise, after being promoted from his run game coordinator role, but Dickerson's 10 years of experience as an assistant O-line coach with the Browns (2010) and Rams (2012-2020) have prepared him for the rigors of leading the offensive line unit. In 2012, the Rams saw nine offensive linemen start at least one game due to injuries, while dropping their sacks allowed total from 55 the year prior to 35. In 2019, the Rams went on a six-game streak without allowing a sack, overcoming the loss of two starters to injury while allowing a league-low 22 sacks on the year.
Dickerson’s ability to coach up his linemen and adapt on-the-fly has translated to Seattle, where Cross and Lucas helped Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith earn the 2022 AP Comeback Player of the Year Award as Seattle reached the playoffs.
But this season, both Cross (toe) and Lucas (knee) have been sidelined with injuries since being injured during a Week 1 loss to the Rams. Lucas has since been moved to the Injured Reserve, while Cross works to get back on the field. But Dickerson has managed to bring the best out of his offensive line depth, from rookies to veterans. In Week 2, tackles Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan stepped up in Cross and Lucas’ place, allowing quarterback Geno Smith to be sacked just once in Seattle's 37-31 overtime road victory over the Detroit Lions.
Over the past two games, Smith has been sacked just three times against the Panthers and Giants with three or four backups on the line.
Running back Kenneth Walker III has reached the end zone five times in three weeks, and Seattle's offense has produced 98 points in that span to win three in a row since the loss in the opener.
"I think Andy and all those guys have done a tremendous job of staying ready," said Smith. "Obviously, you'd love to have your starting guys out there, but in this league, you never know what could happen so guys have got to step up and that's what I thought happened today. Not a perfect performance, not our overall best performance, like I said, we've got a lot of room to improve, but I feel like the guys stepped up and they battled against a really good defensive line."
According to ESPN Analytics weekly offensive calculations, Seattle’s offensive line rank No.11 league-wide with a 60 percent pass block win rate, despite the injuries. In limited action, Bradford has climbed to No. 15 of all interior linemen with a 95 percent pass block win rate, with 42 wins out of 44 passing downs. Coach Pete Carroll commented on the progression of his 2023 fourth round selection by-way-of LSU.
"He went against the two best guys that we'll face all year," said Carroll. "Those guys are phenomenal defensive tackles. I don't know what happened so much, but I do know the way he plays matched up well. We had intended for him to play this game even though Phil came back, just to see him out there. He is very physical, he's 360 and he can handle it well and he moves his feet well and all that. He's a dynamic, young kid on the offensive line for us and it's great to see him get this play right, it's invaluable play time."
Week 5's bye will allow Seattle's banged-up offensive line a chance to recover, but the results produced across the team's 3-1 start are noteworthy. With so much production across a varying offensive line every week, one can only wonder how much better Seattle's offense can be once that group up front is healthy. But the past three weeks have shown just how integral Dickerson's coaching is to Seattle's offensive line, as the Seahawks look to prove to be a playoff contender in 2023.
Check out the best sights from the sidelines and the locker room following the Seahawks' 24-3 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Monday Night Football. Easy to Celebrate photos are presented by Bud Light.